Strategic Marketing

KERN Health at the 9th Annual Medicare Market Innovations conference in San Diego (7/9 through 7/11/18)

For those attending the 9th Annual Medicare Market Innovations conference in San Diego (7/9/18 through 7/11/18) next week, I look forward to seeing you at my Pre-Conference Workshop on Monday, 7/9, – please stop by the KERN Health booth and say Hello!

#marketing #medicaremarketing



6 Areas of Modern Marketing Technology

Chapter 5 of The Future of Modern Medicare Marketing

Direct Mail is the workhorse of Medicare marketing.  The 3 to 12 touch direct mail program during AEP and the 4 to 18 touch direct mail programs for those aging in are the de facto go-to strategies and tactics for every Medicare marketing organization.

Digital marketing is starting to become a “must-have” for organizations, as the leading edge Boomers are aging into the market, and since Boomers are digitally literate and have experience with digital, reaching that audience where they are most likely to be has become increasingly important.

As Business-to-business (B2B) marketing has been the driver of marketing technology, the amount of technology that is now available to forward thinking B2B marketers is enough to make even the most sophisticated B2B technology marketer’s head blow up. Scott Brinker of has been publishing the landscape of marketing technology over the past 6 years. Here is a link to the latest info-graphic from Scott Brinker-

When you consider that B2B Marketers are the early adopters of marketing technology, even the most sophisticated and complex B2B marketing organizations are still learning about and testing much of the newly available technology.

With the caveat presented up-front that not all of these technologies are appropriate for Medicare marketers, let’s take a wide look at the categories of marketing technology that are now available and while we go through them, I’ll attempt to point out which technologies might make sense for the forward thinking Medicare marketing organizations.

Let’s again review the broad categories of marketing technology in greater detail.

1.      Advertising and Promotion

2.      Content and Experience

3.      Social and Relationships

4.      Commerce and Sales

5.      Data

6.      Management

Advertising and Promotion

In the broad category of Advertising and Promotion, Brinker breaks down the technologies into these sub-categories of Advertising and Promotion:

·        Mobile Marketing

·        Display and Programmatic Advertising

·        Search & Social Advertising

·        Native/Content Advertising

·        Video Advertising

·        Print

·        Public Relations

Mobile Marketing seems to be self-explanatory, until you delve deeper into the category and realize that some of the brand name technologies contain within- such as Oxygen 8, Snapp, Netadge, Skyhook, InMobi, AdSqure, Turnstyle, UberMedia, Factual, Follow Analytics, SMS Workflow, Hipcricket, Mobfox, Proximity Kit, Push Monkey, are unknown to you and your Medicare marketing team.

Display and Programmatic Advertising, seem to be straightforward technologies that enable your organization to be smarter in your RTB (Real Time Buying) of programmatic digital display advertising, and these names: Scoota, Viant, Steelhouse, Spongecell, RTB, Semcasting, Rubicon, Adobe, Colspace, 7Search, AdForm, Affinity, Beeswax, Conversant, Emerse, Madison Logic, are some of the branded technology available in this space.

Search and Social Advertising are the technologies that enable optimization of search engine marketing, and automation of social advertising.  Some of the names of these technologies, include names you’ve most likely never heard before, along with some very familiar names such as Facebook and Pinterest: Adstage, Funnely, Ampush, Balihoo, Adngin, evocalize, glow, Marin Software, AdEspresso, Kenshoo, TenScores, Automate/Ads, ReFuel4, Facebook, Pinterest, Adcore.

Native Advertising and Content Advertising Technologies began showing up just a few years ago, and now there are many, such as Bidtellect, Buzzstarter, XXL Content, Zumobi, Shareahloic, Stumble Upon, Instinctive, NowAds, RevContent, Buzzoola, PubMatic, Vibrant, along with some content producers that you’re very familiar with such as BuzzFeed, and LinkedIn.

Video Advertising of the digital variety can be facilitated with technologies from these companies: Adgreetz, Unruly, Buzztala, AudienceXpress, Innovid, Simulmedia, Brainient, Videology, BrightRoll, SnapStudio, Beachfront, AnswerMedia, AdRise, along with the better known entities such as YouTube.

Print.  You may be wondering why print is included in the new marketing technology landscape, as the Guttenberg Press dates back to the 1440s and really, most print technologies are known by most Medicare marketers- or are they?  PFL, Moo, Cafe Press, Blurb, TinKerCad, NextDayFlyers, Enthusem, Sculpteo, Printfection, hhGlobal, DirectMailManager, AmazingMail, are all print vendors that specialize in “on-demand” printing, and these vendors produce materials that are meant to be a part of a larger digital experience.

Public Relations.  There’s not much better exposure for organizations than EARNED publicity and these technologies enable you and your organization to maximize the exposure -Digitally enabled PR sources such as: Cision, Trendkite, Bulldog Reporter, Isebox, MarketWired, PR Underground, CustomScoop, Muck Rack, PitchEngine, NewsBox, PressKing, CyberAlert are being used by forward thinking organizations as part of their marketing technology stack.

Now, before you start filling out your technology requisition forms for all of this technology, let’s think about the practical application of the technology that your organization will need in the way of something called “Marketing Operations.”

It’s important to understand the various elements of a modern marketing technology stack and some of the most prominent vendors. What your organization really needs is a process for identifying, evaluating and selecting technology solutions – not just a laundry list of cool tools.

Here are some key recommendations for creating such a process. You should apply it to every aspect of your marketing technology purchases, including buying or upgrading the core components we discussed above.

Too many organizations view their technology purchases strictly in terms of the technology capabilities – not the relationship between the technology and the day-to-day responsibilities of key stakeholders.

Every technology investment made must include a plan for promoting its adoption and integration with existing business processes. If those processes need to be changed – and they often will in a data-driven marketing environment – then these changes should be identified and made a part of the technology implementation process. Employee training is another essential piece of the puzzle, and it is often overlooked in the rush to plug in new systems and move on to the next project.

Also, your marketing organization should track its technology ROI just as it tracks the impact of its customer-facing campaigns. What are the KPIs that indicate whether a technology is having the desired impact? How are those KPIs measured, and how are they evaluated? How can your organization improve its technology ROI over time? The answers to these questions are just as important as the choice of the technology itself.

Approaching technology leadership as a constant cycle of experimentation, assessment, implementation and refinement is essential.   When you look at a chart that describes the modern marketing technology ecosystem, bear in mind that many of these products – and probably the vast majority – didn’t exist 10 years ago. In fact, entire categories of technology have emerged during that period, and that trend is likely to accelerate.

That’s the challenge inherent in a golden age of software innovation: You can’t benefit from a technology if you don’t know that it exists. Research and due diligence is practically a daily requirement, and it’s a key responsibility for a Marketing Technologist or similar job role. Even CMOs must stay abreast of these changes, since new technology can have such a big impact on your organization’s capabilities and strategic objectives.

The fast-moving nature of marketing technology also illustrates why these decisions must reside with the marketing organization rather than with IT. While the IT team is a vital partner in assessing and implementing new technology, and in providing the infrastructure required to leverage them, the marketing team is far better qualified to judge the importance and impact of these tools.

Modern enterprises collect and manage more data than ever before. According to IDC Research, “from 2005 to 2020 the “digital universe” will grow by a factor of 300, from 130 exabytes to 40,000 exabytes – doubling every two years. In slightly more human-scale terms, by 2020 the world will generate the equivalent of 5,200 gigabytes for every person on earth.”

This data comes from an equally staggering variety of sources. Every visitor to your web site generates a stream of intricately detailed data about their activities. Social media posts are like the pixels on a gigantic display that illustrates public sentiment towards brands and products. Even the products our companies make generate intricate data trails from the manufacturing facility to the retail shelf, and beyond. Call centers, CRM records, point of sale systems and e-commerce sites contribute to the torrent of data.

This is one of the keys to defining the concept of executing on your data strategy: Streams of structured and unstructured data, from multiple sources, moving in greater volumes and at greater speeds than ever before. Analyst firms such as Gartner refer to the “3 Vs” of Big Data – variety, velocity and volume — and it provides a useful starting point to understand the implications.

It’s clear that having a sound and effective data strategy and implementation plan can result in pure gold for marketers that want to understand their customers and anticipate their needs:

·        Marketers can use data to get “high resolution” knowledge about who their customers are, where they spend their time, what they need to do their jobs, what motivates them and how they prefer to be contacted.

·        Insights from data can reveal powerful predictive capabilities that allow marketers to ask “what if?” questions, develop predictive scoring models and create accurate forecasts.

·        Data collection and analysis gives marketers an unprecedented ability to tie investments to results, and to test and experiment with their campaigns.

·        The “velocity” aspect of data makes it possible to realize all of these capabilities in near real-time conditions, giving marketers the ability to make decisions that are fast and accurate.

That gold, however, is buried in a mountain of undifferentiated and irrelevant data, and the “mining” process is beyond the capabilities of traditional databases and analytical tools. In fact, no definition of data is complete without referring to the unique challenges involved in making use of this data, and to the powerful new technologies being developed to solve those challenges.

Building A Medicare Marketing Technology Road Map

Part 4 of “The Future Of Modern Medicare Marketing” Series

Where do we begin? How can we start? The whole idea of bringing cutting edge modern marketing technology to your antiquated old school Medicare marketing team seems almost impossible. Yet, according to Gartner, 27% of organizations indicate that marketing technology is a growing portion of their marketing budget.  You begin to think to yourself, that your organization is definitely on the wrong side of the 27%, which is the 73% of organizations who aren’t spending anything on marketing technology.

You’ve been on your team long enough to have learned that if you are successful in obtaining funding from your C-suite, you will soon realize that careful and consistent scrutiny from that very same C-suite is included at no extra charge. The C-suite will make sure that you are making good on the marketing technology promises that you made while you were obtaining the funding.

And if you thought that the scrutiny you received from the C-suite was an intrusion; that is nothing compared to the consistent flow of positive or negative feedback that will be provided to you, by the marketing and sales teams regarding the marketing technology, the strategy, the implementation and more than anything else, the outcome your team achieves.

And don’t forget to generously dole out information about the innovation that your suggested system will enable, and how scaleable the solution is, and be sure to make the case for the competitive advantage you will enjoy as compared to the revenue impact you will need to endure for the purchase of the technology.

Step One: Creating A Data Strategy

Do you have a marketing data strategy, and if not, how ready is your marketing organization for taking the steps to create a data strategy?  How prepared is your organization to collect, analyze and provide insight to the enormous amount of data that current and future technologies can provide?

Is the culture of your marketing organization data driven? Are your important strategic and tactical decisions informed by research data and analysis of the data?  How sophisticated is your organization in mining data?  Does KDD (Knowledge Discovery in Database,) predictive modeling, predictive lead scoring, and data driven creative all play a part in your strategic and tactical marketing decisions? How well do you really know your customers or prospects?

Technology opens a window to important and critical data, however, only analysis can provide the insights needed to optimize marketing.

In many organizations there is uncertainty and confusion regarding which business leader or department will lead the data analytics strategy.  Is it the function of the CIO, the CFO, the COO, or do organizations create a new position (as many organizations have recently done) such as the Chief Data Officer (CDO) or Chief Analytics Officer (CAO?)

Selecting and implementing a marketing technology stack allows organizations to execute on their data strategy, and although it is the other way around in many organizations, best practice dictates that a data strategy must be thought out and implemented prior to investing in technology.

What do you want to learn from the data?  What gold is obfuscated by tons of irrelevant big data, and how can we dig deep to find the gold? What are we looking for? Where do we find it?

These are some of the questions that data strategists consider while forming the data strategy.  It is important to keep in mind that a data strategy is perpetual, and will always be in a constant state of change based on both the needs of the organization, and the advent of new emerging technologies.

Technologies designed to enable marketers to better target, engage and convert prospects in the digital space are increasingly being offered through SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service) and Cloud computing vendors.  This “instant availability” of technology without having to engage or depend on IT departments, is extremely appealing to marketers, who have come to the conclusion that technology can dramatically increase the effectiveness of marketing departments, especially those that have limited financial resources.

Where do we start with our technology stack? Begin with an assessment of the technology that is currently in place. Chances are good that some technology exists, even if that technology is simply a CRM or Sales CRM system such as, dedicated Medicare CRM systems or more sophisticated CRM systems from SAP, Oracle or Microsoft and in some organizations, a CMS or content management system may also already exist.

Before you embark on building the roadmap that will enable you, as the change agent of marketing, there are 3 major points to consider regarding the introduction of marketing technology to your organization.

1.      What technologies will enable your organization to meet your marketing and sales goals and will enable you to compete in your market?

2.      What is the state of your staff in regards to experience or proficiency with marketing technology, and if that answer is not good, what is the likelihood that you’ll be able to hire the correct marketing operations personnel to staff your marketing operations team? Or if you’ll need to train the current team, make sure to include that as part of your change agent proposal.

3.      What outcome are you expecting? Will the technology you’ve chosen enable those outcomes? Consider your sales system, especially if you’re a broker/agent heavy sales organization.  Or perhaps the majority of your sales comes from your inside sales team. Either way, you will need to build your tech stack based on your sales system.  Are leads generated for inside sales or broker sales or both?  The need for leads is a great place to begin the discussion about your marketing technology needs.

Researching, choosing, implementing and selecting marketing technology is not a “one and done” event, meaning that there are new innovations each and every year. There are innovations within the same technology platforms, with new iterations of the platforms available every few years.  There are likely to be new disruptive marketing technologies introduced as time goes on. How will your team be able to stay on top of the newest innovations, latest iterations and disruptive new technologies in the years going forward? Putting a plan in place to do just that is imperative to the success of an “evergreen” marketing technology organization.

Your marketing technology goals MUST be aligned to the business goals.

Be diligent and ask these 15 tough questions:

1.      What is the state of the technology stack now?

2.      Are you building from ground zero?

3.      Does your organization have a CRM system?

4.      Do you use an email service provider (ESP)?

5.      Is there a marketing automation system in place?

6.      Are there any members of your team that have had previous experience with marketing technology, and if so, how can you leverage their knowledge?

7.      Have you determined which technology and equally important- which marketing operation processes are required to enable you to identify and acquire new members?

8.      Have you prioritized your wish list of marketing technology pieces?

9.      Which technology pieces are critical to your success, which are must-haves and which are nice-to-haves?

10.  Is your organization fully utilizing the marketing technology pieces that are in place now?

11.  Is there widespread adoption of the technology?

12.  Is every marketing technology piece that we currently own or are planning to buy integrated or can be integrated with our other pieces or systems or do we own or plan to own standalone pieces of technology?

13.  How do our plans for purchasing and using marketing technology impact or integrate with our organization’s current or future plans for technology?

14.  Are we creating an isolated disparate enablement or are we able to integrate with current organizational systems?

15.  Is there budget available to purchase the necessary pieces?

A friend and acquaintance, Scott Vaughan from Integrate, in an article written by Kimberly Whitler in Forbes, makes a very important and helpful point for all marketers who are endeavoring to bring their organizations into the modern age of marketing technology.  He suggests creating a marketing technology (MarTech) blueprint.  Here’s Scott Vaughan’s take on creating blueprints.

“Blueprints are powerful internal and external communications tools. They are used to provide a “single view of the truth” for all stakeholders involved in the marketing process, including the teams utilizing the technology and the executives who are evaluating investments for ROI and business impact. In addition, there is incredible power in sharing with current and prospective MarTech vendors and asking, “Where does your tech solution or tool fit in?” or “How does your tech add value or replace existing providers in our current environment?”

What technology should you be recommending to your organization?  Hopefully, you have developed a data strategy, and have answered all of the questions posed thus far in this article, to determine the best answer to the big question of what should we buy today, what we should be considering in the near future.

The Modern Medicare Marketing Department’s Change Agent 

Part 3 of “The Future Of Modern Medicare Marketing” Series

What is the marketing culture at your Medicare marketing organization?  Is innovation, experimentation, testing all within the culture?  If they are, you’ll have a much easier time campaigning for marketing technology and if not, you’ll have more of an uphill battle.

Technological advances in any industry can be disruptive.  People generally are opposed to change for a variety of reasons but the main one is always a reluctance to disturb the comfort of the status quo.

A recent article in Forbes: “5 Reasons Leaders Are Afraid To Challenge The Status Quo”reveals some interesting insight as to why upsetting the status quo cause leaders to be fearful, or at least concerned.

Glenn Llopis, the author, quotes a Harvard Business Review article where a study of 1,000 employees across the nation were surveyed and were asked: “How often have you seen senior leaders challenge the status quo or ask employees to think outside the box? “42% said never or almost never, 32% said sometimes, and 26% said fairly often or very often. Only 3% said always.

Here, Llopis details these reasons that leaders are afraid of challenging the status quo:

1.      “They’re unwilling to turn the spotlight of accountability on themselves

2.      They’re afraid of risk

3.      They don’t know how to get started

4.      They lack organizational readiness

5.      They have not evolved as leaders”

Let’s consider these reasons: If your executives are unwilling to turn the spotlight of accountability on themselves, for fear of failing, as the perception would be if the program or directive failed, then the person leading the program also failed.  The marketing leader in your organization may be willing to suffer through missing their numbers quarter after quarter, but would be unwilling to champion what could be perceived as a big expenditure, having themselves and their reputations on the line to succeed.

Here the status quo, even if the leads and sales are diminishing year over year, is safer than putting their neck on the line to ask the company to invest in marketing technology.

At KERN, we have developed what we believe is the accurate Modern Buyer’s Journey, which consists of 10 stages.  This is not a linear journey, so the stages may be traversed in bunches or in a different order than listed here. The 10 stages of the Modern Buyer’s Journey are:

1.      Distraction

2.      Recognize Need

3.      Search For Solutions

4.      Seek Vendor Solutions

5.      Evaluate Solutions

6.      Justify Solutions

7.      Social Research

8.      Cost Analysis

9.      Purchase

10.  Evaluate Decision

Let’s assume that you are the decision maker in your marketing department. And let’s say that you’ve happened upon this article, and it distracted you. You’ve always consider yourself a savvy, forward thinking modern marketer, and you understand that new innovations, techniques, processes and technologies have vastly impacted marketing. However, somehow, your organization has a tendancy to ignore the fact that marketing has had wholesale changes in the past 5 years, and, that old “Status-Quo” problem about doing things the way that they’ve always been done is a trap that marketing organizations often fall into. (Stage 1)

Now, you’re recognized that perhaps you do have a need for marketing technology to at least keep pace with your competitors. This realization is not only a logical one, but an emotional one as well. Having to implement any type of change in any part of our lives can be challenging, overwhelming and frustrating.  It can also create feelings of anxiety, conjuring up a host of “what-if’s.” What if my job is no longer relevant when we have automated technological marketing in place? What if my adoption of the technology is too slow and new marketing team members are brought in? What if my value plummets due to the greater value of the tool and the lesser perceived value of me?  (Stage 2)

You’re on Google- you’re searching for marketing technology solutions. You’ve managed to quell the bad thoughts that are echoing in your mind, realizing that you are the change agent- you know that adoption of the newest and latest and greatest technology is definitely going to move your marketing organization forward, so you’re on board with it. (Stage 3)

You’ve found several solutions from several different vendors, some that integrate with each other, and some that seem to be stand-alone solutions. You notice the names of several vendors that are coming up repeatedly on your searches. (Stage 4)

Now that you have the names of the companies that are manufacturing these marketing technology solutions, you research each, find out what capabilities that they have, match those against your specific needs, and now you are evaluating those vendor solutions. (Stage 5)

After doing your homework at the very beginning, you understand what your specific needs are, and you are now justifying your proposed chosen solutions against those needs, and budget. You have realized that this exercise of seeking out appropriate marketing technology may be a never ending exercise.  After all, innovation is the driver of technological advance, and the companies that manufacture marketing technology are likely to build a better mousetrap next year or the year after.  You have also come to the conclusion that there is no “one” tool that will do all you need it to do to be your marketing technology solution. So you may have to repeat your searching and researching over and over again for each specific tool. You must also remember that your end goal, of equipping your organization to compete on at least a level playing field, or a playing field that provides your organization with an “unfair” advantage is a goal that will need to be revisited each year or two, or when an innovative or disruptive marketing technology is invented.  (Stage 6)

Social research can take place during each stage, or as a separate exercise, however, most will be checking out independent 3rd party reviews, tests, chatter on social networks, including LinkedIn, and trade associations or publications that specialize in reviewing marketing technologies.  (Stage 7)

How much will this marketing technology cost us? What is the perceived return on investment? How long will it take before we begin to see the return on investment? How ready are we to install or integrate this technology with our legacy systems? What is going to be the monthly cost, or the total cost of ownership? Have you considered that data is at the heart of what makes all marketing technology work?  Are you aware that your data strategy needs to have been determined while you are seeking marketing technology? What data do you need to capture? What data are you seeking? Have you planned for the sheer amount of data, and the velocity at which data will arrive and flow through your system?  Are the solutions you are about to pull the trigger on, capable of all that you need for it to do? Are the reports generated out of the system sophisticated enough to inform you of your real time progress? (Stage 8)

Okay, we have buy-in from the top-down. We have a green light and permission to issue a purchase order. We pulled the trigger and now we own it. (Stage 9)

We own it, now we need to utilize it.  How long did it take us to ramp up on the operation of these technologies? How was the actual experience of using it as compared to the perceived complexity of using it?  Was this a wise purchase choice for our organization, and why, or why not? (Stage 10)

If you’re going to stick your neck out on the block, and have decided to champion this cause of finding, evaluating, purchasing and using this marketing technology, you will need to plan each stage of your buyer’s journey, and preferably will have your own executive champion to join you on the journey. Do the research, be prepared to intelligently discuss your point of view on different marketing technologies, what they do, how they will help your organization, and what your perceived return on investment would be.

Marketo, a vendor that manufactures marketing automation technology has realized the difficulty in being the agent of change of the marketing department. They have written an excellent guide which is referenced and linked below.  And while this guide is specific to marketing automation technology, these steps can be followed to help you act as the change agent, selling your vision of any type of marketing technology up to the executive level.

Selling Marketing Automation To The C-Suite from Marketo

Do you have what it takes to be a successful marketing change agent?

Are you a catalyst for innovative new processes?  Is it your goal to improve your marketing organization’s ability to improve and optimize outputs? Are you able to bring your ideas to life by engaging the entire marketing organization? Are you able to envision the ideal state of future marketing technology that would enable your organization to accomplish better results?  What would be your plan of taking the organization from where it is today to where it needs to be in the future?

One exercise you can try yourself is to map the organization’s marketing as it is today, in the current state, and create a future-state map of the organization, showing where the improvements will be made, and how those improvements will positively affect the organization’s ability to considerably improve under the new changes.

Technology isn’t the solution.  Technology is a solution. Different pieces of technology provide different pieces of a solution. As the change agent of your modern Medicare marketing organization, your research, analysis and recommendation must reflect the ability of what you are proposing to move your organization forward and to provide your organization with the competitive advantage or competitive equalizer that you need to not just survive, but succeed!

Each year, the MarTech conference has an awards show.  This show is called “The Stackies”and is named as such to reflect the Marketing Technologies Stacks that the top entrants have submitted. In 2017, they expanded the award to include “The Hackies” which are the winning 21 essays written by the marketing operations departments at the top marketing technology companies in the nation. One of this year’s winners is notable- and that would be Red Wing Shoes, which isn’t a B2B marketer, and also obviously isn’t a technology marketer.  Medicare marketers- please take notice- you’re not B2B and you’re not technology either.  If Red Wing Shoes can do it, so can you.


Do Medicare Marketers Care About Marketing Technology?

Part 2 of “The Future Of Modern Medicare Marketing” Series

Each year, there are more marketing related business conventions and shows than anyone can possibly attend.  If you’re one of the luckier Medicare marketers, whose organization sees the value in sending their marketing people out into the world to find what the latest and greatest techniques, tactics and strategies are, you will most likely proceed very judiciously to select a conference or event that will provide you with some actionable take-aways.

Deciding to spend that allowance on an event that is specifically dedicated to marketing technology, such as MarTech isn’t likely to happen.  And that’s okay, or is it?

While marketing technology gained traction as a B2B marketing enablement, with long sales cycles, complex sales, group buying, and account based marketing (ABM,) today, ALL forward thinking marketing organizations have seen the reality of their future, and that future is being forged today with the perpetual innovation, refinement, optimization that is fueling the marketing technology industry.

Do Medicare marketers care about marketing technology?

One that definitely does is David Edelman, the CMO of Aetna, who happens to be the keynote speaker at the upcoming MarTech conference in the fall of 2017, and his topic is “Marketing-Led Digital Transformation, Inside and Out”.

As marketing technology makes its way beyond B2B applications, into B2C and specifically, healthcare- and Medicare marketing, those early adopters will have an unfair advantage to the laggards in the space.

Chances are, if you are a Medicare marketer, you compete with Aetna. How do you feel knowing that they’ve not only adopted marketing technology, but are so immersed in it, that they are a thought leader on the subject, speaking at a conference that is completely dedicated to marketing technology?

Compare Aetna’s adoption of marketing technology to that of your own organization, and where do you stand? Do you have a CRM in place? Have you even considered a marketing automation system?  What is the state of your digital analytics? How will you compete with the Aetna’s of the world, today, and tomorrow?

What is a Marketing Technology Stack?

AdRoll, a marketing technology itself, defines the Marketing Stack:

“A marketing stack is a group of technologies that marketers leverage to execute, analyze and improve their marketing activities.  This includes all technologies that marketing teams use, from marketing automation to data enrichment and analytics.”

Let’s assume that Aetna has the complete marketing technology stack in place right now, along with a marketing operations team, with the leadership that believes in marketing technology, so you have top-down investment throughout the organization and a team that is ready to utilize every tool in their toolbox to create an unfair advantage in marketing against your organization.

How long will it take your organization to ramp up to the level that Aetna is working at now?

During that time how much of your market share will erode and how much of it will be taken by Aetna and other competitors who are ahead of your organization in marketing technology adoption and practice?

So, let’s get back to the question that began this section: Do Medicare Marketers Care About Marketing Technology?

If you’re a Medicare marketer, and you aren’t aware of the plethora of marketing technology available to you and your organization, there’s good news and bad news.

The bad news is that other organizations are far ahead of where you are right now.

The good news, is that it is not too late to begin that journey, the same journey that the Aetna CMO will be speaking about this fall at MarTech which is “Marketing-Led Digital Transformation, Inside and Out.”

Every Medicare marketing organization needs to have a Change Agent.  Someone inside the organization that can influence or forge alliances with the top executives in marketing, to raise their hand, and speak “truth to power.”

The truth is that those organizations who sit on the sidelines of the marketing technology movement will be facing an unfair advantage to those organizations who are using the technology.

And the clock is ticking.  As more Medicare marketers strive to create that “unfair marketing advantage” over their laggard competitors, the more proficient and efficient early adopters will “eat their lunch.”

When intelligent, complex lead nurture emails, tele-contacts, direct mail pieces, remarketed digital advertising, all optimized through real-time digital testing and insight provided by real time off and online analytics; all that which is possible through the use of marketing technology can bring to bear on prospective members will consistently out-perform organizations who are trying to out-run a jet plane with a horse and buggy.

Medicare Marketers! The Marketing Technology Future Is NOW!

The Future of Modern Medicare Marketing


Take a short break from the hectic throes of Medicare AEP marketing, kick your feet up, breathe deeply and ponder with me, for a moment about what the future-state of Medicare marketing may be like.

It’s August of 20-something, and you’re a Medicare marketer. You are in the midst of a flurry of marketing activity aimed at completing your marketing materials for the next AEP submission and review by CMS.

Your team has made it through the winter months. You watched as the days on the January calendar passed by, as you and your team had just recovered from the previous AEP, while watching the disenrollment figures closely.

February brought on the post-AEP assessment, the post-mortem of what marketing went right and what went wrong during the previous AEP. The post-AEP assessment of previous years had been painful. However this is 20-something and this year, your team was working under a new philosophy of “Modern Medicare Marketing” and your results were the best-ever delivered to your organization.

March was a busy month, researching and assessing the market, the competitors, both old and new. And along with March came two Medicare conferences to choose from, but your budget was limited and you were only able to attend one.  You gleaned some insight and you learned some new tactics that were successful from several of the speakers and attendees.

April, May and June were planning and implementing this year’s AEP marketing.  From the strategic decisions made by your team to address the shortcomings of the previous year’s AEP performance, to your team’s ability to test given the limited budget you have been provided, to some “nice-to-have” marketing luxuries that are on your “wish-list,” you have decided what is possible and probable based on budget, resources and staff. In late June your team, and your agency set out to create the materials that have been planned to accomplish the strategic mission.

Throughout August and September the CMS approvals come back, and your team readies the marketing assault on the designated market area for implementation. Your warm-up direct mail is all queued up, the media has been planned for broadcast, cable, radio, and since it is 20-something, all digital channels are in play.

It’s October and the AEP moment of truth is upon you. Except, because this is 20-something, you have all of the modern marketing technologies that are available in 20-something at the ready. You walk into the “Marketing Operations” department to speak with the marketing technologists who are running the 6 areas of modern marketing technology.

·        Advertising and Promotion

·        Content and Experience

·        Social and Relationships

·        Commerce and Sales

·        Data

·        Management

These future technologies have enabled your team to deliver up marketing experiences that those who were marketing in 2017 have only have dreamed of.

A prospective member receives your warm-up direct mail piece in early October of 20-something. They are interested. They aim their phone at your direct mail piece and using an image recognition technology (not a QR code, but an app that recognizes the print piece itself) they are redirected to your website.

When that prospective member, let’s call her Mary, arrives at your website, your marketing tracking technology tags Mary with 2 identifications. Since Mary hasn’t registered yet, the anonymous identifications will track her movement and behavior as she navigates the site.

Mary is interested, however since she arrived at the website prior to October 7, there was no call-to-action to enroll. She ignored the other calls-to-action to download guides, but she did watch a video and looked at an info-graphic. She did not register to receive additional information.

Mary did receive touch 2 of the direct mail campaign, and it is now past October 7. Mary received a lot of other direct mail too.  She goes online to search for other solutions, and Mary is being retargeted by your marketing.  She sees one of your banner ads as she is on a network site, recognizes your brand from the DM piece and clicks on your banner. (Mary could have easily been exposed to your brand via digital video advertising, native advertising, social network advertising, or any other digital means.)

Mary arrives at your best-practice landing page and is asked to register.  Even though she is on a different browser, your technology knows that Mary is a previous anonymous visitor tagged by her tracking number and as soon as Mary registers, her digital history on your website is then transferred to her name and email address.  Mary is now re-marketable. Since you are using technology that can discover who Mary is by having Mary enter her first and last name and zip code, she doesn’t even have to enter her physical address or email address- your technology has the ability to discover it through her entry of name and zip code.

Marketing automation technology kicks in. You have developed a lead scoring matrix that scores Mary’s digital behavior, so every time Mary has looked at a particular marketing asset on your site, such as that video and the info-graphic that she viewed when she first visited your site as an anonymous user, her score increases.  Your lead scoring also takes into account the recency and frequency in which Mary has visited your site.  For simplicity, let’s say that Mary scored 5 points for the video, 5 points for the info-graphic and 10 points for coming back to the site within 10 days.  If you had set the criteria for a lead to be mature at 20 points, Mary would be passed over to sales to be contacted.

There are 3 stages of lead qualification- MQL (Marketing Qualified Lead,) SQL (Sales Qualified Lead,) and SAL (Sales Accepted Lead.) If the criteria had been set to 50 points, Mary would still need to score 30 more points to be a “Sales Accepted Lead” (SAL.) The scoring criteria has been previously set through a series of meetings with sales and has been optimized over time. Sales understands that NO LEAD will be passed to them until the lead achieves the prescribed score.

Let’s say that Mary is at 20 points and is not yet considered a Sales Accepted Lead.  Mary is then automatically placed into the Lead Nurture communications stream, which automatically delivers Mary predetermined communications through the marketing automation software.  If Mary responds to any of these communications, she is placed into a different “responder track” of more targeted and more aggressive calls to action.  The nurture track is not limited to email communications, there can be a DM touch, or a call center call touch, or several of each. It’s up to the marketer.

In the meantime, Mary is still being retargeted by banners on the network of websites where the media is placed.  Mary is still exposed to the cable and television commercials. Mary is still receiving DM pieces, and is exposed to print and other media that has been planned.

Mary enrolls, and is automatically removed from the acquisition marketing communications program, and is now placed in the automated member nurture program.

Or- Mary doesn’t enroll throughout AEP, however, Mary has been thoroughly exposed to the brand and may consider enrolling next year, and your organization has Mary on the radar ready to market to her in the future.

Would it surprise you to learn that this description of Modern Medicare Marketing isn’t a future state at all?

This is a current state.

Yes, all that has been described is not only possible, it is being done by the most forward thinking Medicare marketing organizations.

Imagine how it would be to have this in place at your organization.

Here’s a link to the “MarTech 5000” a super-info-graphic by Scott Brinker that details the brands of technology available to marketers segregated by these 6 categories:

  • Advertising and Promotion
  • Content and Experience
  • Social and Relationships
  • Commerce and Sales
  • Data
  •  Management

Medicare marketing and marketing technology are often disconnected subjects even if they shouldn’t be.

After all we are more than halfway through 2017, and as modern marketers we are all well ensconced in a technological avalanche of digital capabilities that is as new as the last 5 years.

Medicare marketers are laggards in the adoption and use of marketing technology.


Perhaps the cause of slow adoption of marketing technology by Medicare marketers is connected to the heavy reliance on direct mail as the workhorse channel. And it could also be the reluctance by Medicare marketers to deviate from the tried and true traditional channels of Medicare marketing such as direct mail, DRTV and event based marketing that has slowed innovation and adoption of modern marketing technology by the Medicare marketing industry.

B2B Marketers are more apt to be discussing marketing automation, lead scoring, the various levels of lead qualifications such as MQL (Marketing Qualified Leads) SQL (Sales Qualified Lead) and SAL (Sales Accepted Lead, while Medicare marketers would be quite happy to discuss any type of lead.

And, for Medicare marketers, any lead that comes into the house is rapidly transferred over to a sales channel, whether that channel is inside sales, the broker channel, or agents  of or for the company. This is quite different than best-practice B2C or B2B marketing which is now operated by a team of marketers in a function which is called marketing operations and which almost never turns a lead over until the lead is deemed mature and ready to be sold.

Let’s take a step back and look at the purpose of marketing in your Medicare insurance organization.

The #1 function or Medicare marketers is to generate leads for the Medicare insurance sales team. For those Medicare insurance plans that are launching, or do not currently have a well-known market presence, the work of creating awareness, and familiarity with the new to market brand is also a prime charge for the marketing department.

If you’d like to be the agent of change in your organization and have Modern Medicare Marketing in place for your next year’s AEP, I’d be happy to help.

Please contact me and let’s continue the conversation about Modern Medicare Marketing.

Growth Hacking B2B Marketing


What marketing hacks can turn into growth for your organization?

What exactly is a marketing hack?

Well, according to Wikipedia, the definitive source for everything: ”Growth hacking is a process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business. … Growth hackers are marketers, engineers and product managers that specifically focus on building and engaging the user base of a business.”

All B2B Marketing Is NOT The Same

SMB, Middle-Market & Enterprise B2B Marketing each demand their own specific strategies. And there are marketers who work in each of these areas that would love to take advantage of any kind of “hack” especially one that promises “growth.”

There are countless articles that have been written, are being written and will be written about growth hacking. After all, it is one of the shiny new objects of B2B marketing, as was “Account Based Marketing,” or “Social Selling” just a few years back. With anything that is seemingly new, and definitely popular, there is a lot of noise surrounding it.

The idea of experimentation or testing in marketing is certainly not new.  What is new, is the speed at which experimentation is taking place among those who are truly practicing “growth hacking.” Creating an MVP (minimal viable product) type of marketing, and sending it out into the world sometimes only half baked, has allowed marketers to better immediately understand the viability and success of the marketing strategy or tactic.

Tactical Marketing Tryouts

Many of the articles written deliver lists of great “growth marketing hacks” which are really nothing more than a laundry list of tactical ideas for marketers to consider and try out in a limited time frame. I guess that “Tactical Marketing Tryouts” could be classified as growth hacking, however that’s not how I would set out to define it and unfortunately, a great many marketers have mistaken “Tactical Marketing Tryouts” for B2B Growth Hacking Marketing.

What modern marketers ought to be considering is how changing their strategy might change their marketing outcomes.  Strategy is a whole level up from tactical experimentation, and here is where the concept of growth hacking can lead to some really big ideas, and / or changes in direction.

Let’s say that your strategy for marketing a B2B SaaS product aimed at Enterprise accounts is heavily based on inbound marketing utilizing a pull marketing strategy with heavy content development.

In the true spirit of growth hacking, you decided to throw out that strategy, in the hopes of creating some MVP (minimal viable product) strategies that you could roll out in a hurry to see what works and what doesn’t.

One of the 5 different strategies that you developed in the growth hacking scrum (see Agile Project Management) is centered around a hybrid mix of account based marketing, social selling and “snack-able” video content assets.  You decide to roll this out against 5 of the “named accounts” or strategic accounts you have identified and within a few weeks, this strategy seems to be outperforming the old tried and true inbound pull marketing strategy, bringing MQLs, SQLs and SALs in faster and with better quality than your previous strategy.

Congratulations. You have successfully practiced B2B Growth Hacking Marketing.

Now, let’s look at why “Tactical Marketing Tryouts” isn’t really growth hacking.

Had you not changed your strategy, you would have embarked on a journey to test various pieces of “inbound, pull marketing content” which you have considered to be “B2B growth hacking marketing.”

Imagine that you tried 20 different content types, in 5 different content formats, and used different landing pages and calls to action to attempt to improve your results through “B2B Growth Hacking Marketing.” Sure, some of the content tactics may have performed better than your original content, and you may have increased inquiries and prospects through those different content pieces, but you would have never learned that your flawed strategy was preventing you from being successful.

Top of Their Game

B2B marketers who are at the top of their game, have really always practiced a form of “growth hacking.”

Testing is critical to any successful marketing program and good B2B marketers have always known this. What is different about the theory of growth hacking is the abbreviated time period allocated for testing. Rolling out a marketing rapid prototype after rapid prototype in a small scaled section of your marketing will enable you to get a “read” on how your experimentation in marketing is performing.

Yes, you can use this process to test tactics as well as strategies, and I encourage marketers test everything. Tactics, content, calls to action, landing pages, and most importantly, marketing strategy.

B2B Growth Hacking Marketing can be done in SMB, Middle Market and Enterprise B2B marketing, as even though each discipline of B2B marketing is decidedly different, the same process for testing, and for rolling out rapid prototypes of marketing strategy can be accomplished.

I applaud those who have developed the process and idea of growth hacking. Even if the idea isn’t brand new, it still reinforces the best practice of testing, trying new things, and learning to fail good.

One of my favorite quotes on the subject is from Thomas A. Edison who said: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Go out and embrace failure, as Edison did, and you may just wind up developing a B2B Marketing Growth Hack that moves your organization forward at a speed and in ways you never imagined.

JUST IN TIME FOR AEP! Register today for the definitive guide to digital marketing for Medicare Marketers.





Hit your goals for 2018 AEP. Download our eBook now and catch the new wave of boomers!

This comprehensive guide to proven digital tactics will help you:

  • Understand the latest digital marketing techniques.
  • Better segment, target and track your Medicare audience.
  • Give you effective, powerful and easy-to-use tactics that will empower your marketing arsenal. Make 2018 AEP a success!
  • Download the eBook NOW.

Click Here To Download Your Copy NOW!

Social Selling: Marketing’s Role in Social Sales Enablement

How can marketing enable sales to best be prepared for, and succeed at social selling?  Or, in other words, what is marketing’s role in Social Selling Enablement?


Before answering questions regarding “social selling” I feel that it’s important to define the term.

Let’s look at how others define “social selling.”

“Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”

“Social selling is leveraging your own professional brand and social network to gather insights and connections, then use that information to help you discover new opportunities, sell, and get business done.”

Defining social selling itself has become the topic of many blog articles, including this one by Jeff Zelaya of Triblio- “10 LinkedIn Influencers Define Social Selling”

On a very high level, it is my belief that marketing needs to own the customer experience.  Since social media is, and is increasingly becoming an important aspect of the customer experience, it is logical that marketing must strive to own social media.

Yet, one has to wonder is the concept of social media counter-intuitive to the concept of social selling?

Building trust with our customers is one of the, if not the highest priority of most marketing organizations.   Social media etiquette requires organizations to provide information and interactive communications that have value to our community of customers and prospective customers, without appearing to persuade or convince those customers, as in traditional marketing or advertising communications.  Therefore any attempt to “sell” within the social media universe would immediately be viewed as disingenuous or as blatant self-promotion.

Therefore, a marketer’s role in the practice of social selling would be to create a content strategy that would support the provision of important valuable information to the reader that would be relevant and compelling, and would position the organization as an authority on the subject without self-promotion of the organization.  By constructing a content strategy that enables sales to provide this valuable information, marketing would be enabling sales to engage with prospects within the social universe by taking the authoritative and helpful position to stay top of mind and in the prospects consideration set when a purchase decision is imminent.

In order for salespeople to leverage social networks to gain connections or to engage further with connections already made; salespeople must be able to engage their connections or future connections with something (content) that is relevant and compelling to foster interaction.

Based on my vision of social selling, the infrastructure of a well thought out social media program must either exist or must be built in order to support a social selling initiative.

In the case where an organization has an existing social media program, the most impactful quick hit would be to develop a strategy for sales to engage with customers and prospects within a few selected social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

To do this, Marketing would provide a program, or playbook that would educate and enable sales by utilizing the content assets available through the organizations social media program, such as blog articles, studies, surveys, info-graphics, where sales can learn to offer these assets within the construct of each social property in an acceptable communication to gain awareness and interaction with the prospect or customer.

Of course, for marketing to truly enable social selling, there must be alignment between marketing and sales.  There are entire books, and entire marketing practices that are dedicated to the alignment of sales and marketing.   I don’t believe that a one or two line answer here is going to communicate the importance of aligning sales and marketing and it certainly will not enable any readers to tackle an issue of this magnitude.

I would suggest that regular weekly or monthly meetings between sales and marketing is a great place to start this conversation with the future goal of SLA’s (Service Level Agreements) developed as a result of these meetings which can help guide both sales and marketing on the path to true alignment.

Organizations must be fundamentally sound in their development of goals, objectives, strategies and tactics to implement any successful program or campaign.  On the subject of social selling, the fundamentals are essential to building a campaign that enables sales to engage with prospects and customers within social networks.

The very same tools that best-in-class organizations use to develop and manage social media are the tools needed to support a social selling campaign, such as Content Strategy, Editorial Calendars, Activation Maps, and especially for sales, a Social Selling Campaign Playbook that details the tactics used and the assets available to be used.

Social networks have a purpose, and that purpose is to allow people to socially interact and share ideas.  Social selling infringes on the “social” part of social communities, since salespeople obviously have an ulterior motive, which has nothing to do with building an information exchange for the greater good of the community and has everything to do with gaining a competitive advantage to entice prospective or current customers into purchasing by providing valuable and relevant information (content.)   Hiding or cloaking this duplicitous goal of salespeople is the greatest challenge to social selling.

Social selling can be used in Account Based Marketing (ABM).  The strategies that need to be developed for social selling in ABM are slightly different than in non-ABM, where in ABM any current event or relatable information regarding the key strategic account may be in play during the content strategy construction more so than in non-ABM content strategy.

There is great confusion within organizations about the difference between social selling, and information gathering using social network information.  Gathering and seeking information on social networks that help enable sales to sell through the insights of the intelligence is in my opinion of far greater value to both sales and marketing organizations than the practice of social selling, which is a deceitful way to endear salespeople to their prospects through disingenuous social engagement and interactions.

I certainly understand the need for marketing to enable sales to sell.

I would prefer to either enhance a robust social media program, or if need be, build a robust social media program for clients from the ground up, and then use those assets created as part of an overarching content strategy rather than build a patch-work band aid solution as an isolated social selling campaign.

Building, earning, gaining and keeping the trust of our client’s customers and prospective customers is always our goal, and if I feel that implementing social selling tactics would undermine that goal, I would recommend against it.

However, when goals, objectives, strategies, tactics are aligned with our client’s brand and brand value, we are very comfortable in developing a program that enables our client’s salespeople to sell using all channels, including social selling.

B2B Marketers always have 2 clients.   The end user client who uses the product or service sold by the company, and the company’s sales force.  By enabling sales to practice social selling, B2B marketing is fulfilling the mission of catering to the two customers that B2B marketers must accommodate.